2017 IGF Interviews: Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

 

Finalist | Nuevo Award | Best Student Game

Izzie Shasha is the lead designer, and Campbell Fletcher is a 3D artist for Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2017 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2018. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Corey Bertelsen: What main concept, image or question began this project?

Campbell: So it starts and you’re in this expensive adventurers market, full of these expensive weapons and charms that an adventurer would buy before going into the dungeons, looting and fighting monsters.  But you’re just a janitor, so you can’t afford any of those things, and if you were lucky enough to find one of those things you wouldn’t know how to use it; you’d just have to sell it.  So you walk around incinerating things,trying to earn enough money to buy food.

So you’re always struggling to have enough money to get by, but it’s in this nice fantasy setting, so players don’t just feel depressed all the time.

Izzie: The core idea is that you’re on a sci fi fantasy setting, but you’re not the main character – you’re in the background, you’re just there to pick up the trash.  We wanted to take video game RPG tropes and use them to talk about how capitalism works in real life.  It’s kind of depressing, but the colors are bright and the music is friendly. 

We thought about how could we make decisions that messed with people’s expectations and piss gamers off.  It was born out of a frustration with how mainstream game audiences treat more experimental games.  The definition of what a game is and what it can be is still kind of narrow, so we wanted to do something unique.

Corey: Can you describe a specific experience with another game or media that influenced you as you worked on Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor?

Campbell: I’ve played a lot of great games and movies that are based in interesting worlds, but then, especially in games, the protagonist is always the guy with the gun – you don’t always get to see the rest of the world. I was excited to explore the rest of those kinds of worlds.

This was our first project of this size.  One of the reasons the team is so big is that we had people who came on and filled in gaps in characters and models.  We had about 3 or 4 core people who contributed to most of the game.  

I was an interesting process.  We started out and got straight to work, and it was hard to find a programmer with enough free time.  So people were cycling in and out of the project until eventually Izzie, our lead designer, was like “Alright, I’m just going to program the whole game.”  At that point the rest of us were about halfway done with our work.  So I basically finished all my work about halfway through development, and Izzie was just working on it hardcore for another year afterwards.  

Corey: Is there a specific tool or methodology that you feel was important in shaping a unique characteristic of your game?

Campbell: We have about 140 characters, which is pretty big for our scope.  With the environments, we started by modeling each building in the city, but that was taking too much time, so I would give Izzie components textures like walls and doors and they would stitch them together around the world.

Izzie: My roommate and I originally came up with the main design, and we were sort of confused about how a team-based creative process works, so we just thought that we would just get our friends to do all the work for us.  Initially it didn’t work out great – we weren’t great at team management – but it eventually came together and are happy with the end result.  

 

Corey, a recovering structural engineer from Minnesota, is studying game design at NYU.  He likes synaesthetic games, improvised music, and pancakes.